Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I Walk With You

I am doing a lot of thinking about who influences my teaching practice. Patrick Allen wrote about who he was walking with into his classroom and his post on Facebook and Michelle Haseltine's version of it inspired me to think about my own synod--the people I walk with into this work. We had two days of curriculum mapping and conversation this week and I was going to write about that, but I decided not to. Today's slice is all about who is on the path, walking with me.

I walk with Janet Allen and Lee Corey and Beth Scanlon and Becky Bone and Christine Landaker and a host of Geese who taught me real lessons about acceptance and belonging and encouragement and learning along the way. They remind me to flock and fly in a V and care for those around me. I bring those first lessons with me into my classroom every year.

I walk with Beth who teaches me lessons about unconditional love. She reminds me to meet learners (kids and teachers) where they are and focus my intentions on moving them forward. She shows me how you may not know what you're capable of until your chest deep in the mud of a Cypress Swamp. I will bring Beth's thinking about bravery and strength and courage into my classroom next week.

I will walk into this year with Jackie and Krystin and Amorette and Tracie and the teachers that teach tenth graders right beside me. We will talk weekly about what we are seeing kids read, write and do in class. With this small group, I will talk my way through assessment and evaluation and data collection and standards. These are the people that sit with me at the table when leadership asks for our numbers. They remind me to tap into the joy of baby goats and put lessons from the herd into practice. 

I walk with Sara Kajder who teaches me lessons about Cyberspace and digital literacy and mentorship. She reminds me to be purposeful in how I select digital tools for classroom use. She is my living example of responsibility and attention and balance and wellness. She has shown me how tapping a person on the shoulder and giving them a responsibility grows what they know and are able to do. She pays attention and she is a professional learner who balances the demands of the work with the demands of her family and  health.   Every time I troubleshoot technology or a new to me tool, she is by my side in class. 

I walk with Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger. Sara teaches me about my heart and spirit. She knows how to connect affect, emotion, to writing that matters. She shows me how to use my P.I.P.E.S. so that what I have say is heard by the people that need to hear it. She teaches me how to keep on living even when things go dark. Michael teaches me to toughen up. To get on the bike and keep riding--he shows me how to persist, how to go after what I want. She and Michael remind me that art and poetry and rhythm and rhyme and listing and a good day fishing can help us through even the toughest of times. I will feel their love and encouragement in my classroom next week. 

I walk with Penny Kittle and Linda Reif . Penny reminds me to Write Beside Them and to honor choice in reading. I live the Book Love life in my room and both Penny  and Linda validate my practice. Linda whispers Read, Write, Think in my ear as we share stories about buffalo and ballet. She tells me that if I can just get kids to do those things every thing will be all right. Reading and writing will get us there, she's right.

Cypress Creek High School Teachers with the Triumvirate, NCTE 2010:
From left: Rebecca Valente, Helen Philpot, Jeff Anderson, Penny Kittle,
Beth Scanlon, Jennifer Kosloski, and Kelly Gallagher

I walk with Elvis too. Everybody needs a little Elvis (the healthy, role-model Elvis who sang Gospel, not the Elvis at the end). Just sayin'.

I walk with Barry Lane and David Lubar into my classroom. They remind me to lighten up and laugh a little. Barry has taught me that dreams--even nerdy ones like spending an evening with Stephen Krashen-- really do come true. He reminds me to take time to explore and to explain what I want kids to learn and do in language they will understand. 

I walk with Alan Sitomer who showed me that how you treat peoples' children matters. Without hesitation at NCTE, he took my son, Collin and introduced him to people, talked to him (man to man, of course), greeted him by name over and over. He made him laugh and eased his anxiety when he was in a room full of authors and teachers. And he gave me a way to talk to Collin about puberty with The Downside of Being Up.  Alan reminds me to listen and connect to kids. If I can  bring a quarter of his energy, enthusiam and his passion into my classroom next week, the room will sizzle.

I walk with Kelly Gallagher too. He cautions me to put kids--not standards, not common assessments not mandates--first. Students' best interests will drive every decision I make. He reminds me to trust what I know about kids, to be accessible and open to conversation. His practice informs so much of what we do in high school English: balanced literacy, Article of the Week, reading for a reason, writing with mentors. I already put copies in for the articles I've been tagging #firstweeks on Twitter. I may not be as connected to current events in my article choices, but I see the importance and influence of his work on my own.
 I walk with my teacher friends from the English Companion Ning. With Jim Burke and Glenda Funk and Kim McCollumn and Jen Ansbach and Karen LaBonte and Paul Hankins and many more. ECN reminds me of the importance of community and trying things out. We need people around us that push us, that encourage us, that lead us and follow us. We need people that help us be our best selves--online and in our classroom. Jim Burke did that for me and for so many English teachers. His work has been a guiding light in my teaching life.

I will walk into my classroom this year with the power of the Nerdy Book Club at my back. The NBC reminds me that books teach life lessons that many of us never forget. Being a member of the Nerdy Book Club is brag worthy. It is something to celebrate-- Donalyn Miller, Cindy Minnich. The Nerdy Book Club does not miss a day thanks to Cindy Beth Minnich and neither will I. Well, I won't blog every day, but I will write. The NBC schedule, a post every day, amazes and delights the reader me. Readers, as Daniel Pennac told us, have rights and the Nerdy Book Club connects me to readers. I will bring their #titletalk and suggestions into my classroom all year. 

Plus Chris Kervina and Sarah and Chris Gross are part of the Nerdy Community and I will walk
with Sarah and the New York Times into my room this year.
I walk with the Slice of Life Community: Michelle, Stacey, Ruth Ayres, Linda Baie, Dana Huff and Glenda Funk (who is the Slice of Life Police sending reminders to write) and Erin and so many more. 

 The slicing community reminds me to focus (though I ran long today) and to pay attention. Observe. Take in the magic of the details. Write. We can transform any ordinary moment into an epiphany. That is what the Slice of Life community teaches me. I will bring blogging into my classroom next week because of them. 

I walk with Laurie Halse Anderson who gets the job done even from under the table. She reminds me of what it means to devote and commit yourself to a person, people or an idea. She tells me to bring the light, to remind kids that there is a way out of darkness and that we must also speak. 

I walk with Nerdfighters. Nerdfighters remind me that mission number one is to make the world a better place.

I walk with Hank Green who reminds me to think outside of the box and do my happy dance in the hall.  From Hank I learned not to judge a student by how much he talks in class or by what he scored on his SAT. Both change. He and his brother John teach me how to identify critical content with Crash Course.  They remind me not to talk too fast in class, but to let it fly if I'm flipping my instruction because kids can hit pause and play it again. Hank and John remind me to be real and remember my audience.

I walk with my brother John. He may tower over me, but he taught me to stand my ground and stand up to bullies. John reminds me of the wonder of learning to read. He reminds me that people are different (Engineers especially.). He reminds me not to start the year with "what I did this summer" and not to end it with test scores and letter grades. 

I will walk into school this year with my son, Collin. He reminds me of the lightness of childhood and the gossamer of dreams. 

Collin starts high school this year. 

He will remind me to be quiet when he needs to think (or wake up). He will show me how working together brings people closer and how offering a helping hand makes a difference in another person's life. Collin will come to school with me this year. He will remind me that my assignments must have purpose and that the feedback I give to students matters. He will reassure me and show me that I don't have to be too serious about everything. 

He will start high school with me this year. 

I will walk into school with all of you. I can't wait. We're going to have a great year!

Thank you to Stacey, Betsy, Dana, Tara, Beth, Anna, Kathleen & Deb for creating community and valuing voice. Join us at Two Writing Teachers. Slide by the Slice of Life buffet for seconds or link up to serve your own slice of today.


  1. Beautiful. I feel grateful to walk with you...and I wish you a beautiful and inspiring year... xo

    1. Thank you, Amy! I am honored to walk with you across rhyme and line and notebook page.

  2. Aw, I hardly know how to respond to being in such august company, but thanks! It was a difficult day for me, and this was a nice end to it.

  3. Yes we are...and grateful every day that I get to walk in with you too! Beautiful beginning thoughts! Love you!

  4. Lee, this is such a joyful, passionate reminder that we teachers never walk alone! I'm blessed to walk w/ you and w/ so many others you name in your post. There are some I've never met, but they walk w/ me through their immense contribution to our work through their writing.

    I'm sharing this w/ some of my local teacher "travelers." I'm having lunch w/ one tomorrow; we'll be talking about our upcoming journey teaching speech together.

    1. Thanks, Glenda. We are blessed and this work is so good when you do it with others who inspire, encourage and push you to learn and read and write.

  5. What a gorgeous piece of writing! And what a terrific crowd you have surrounding you! Definitely can't go wrong with this bunch! Here's to a terrific year!

  6. I'm humbled to be included in this list of amazing educators and authors! You wrote this so clearly, that I can imagine that path littered with so much talent and kindness!! Thank you for bringing me along with you!! I am honored and I am there!!! What a terrific post!

  7. I love this post so much! Definitely going to have to borrow the structure and theme for an upcoming post of my own. Thanks for the writing inspiration!